Google Plus gets a new look and feel (Review)

Google Plus gets a new look and feel (Review)

Summary: Google Plus, the social network for grown-ups, has a new look and feel. It's not perfect, but there's a lot to like in it.


The new Google+ interface is better.... but what is that huge swatch of white space all about?

The new Google+ interface is better.... but what is that huge swatch of white space all about?

I've been a happy user of Google Plus since its early days.. Now, with its recently revised interface and functionality, Google+ is indeed a bit simpler and more beautiful, but... it still have some blemishes. Such as, what the heck is that large swatch of white space anyway? Bur more about that later. First, the good stuff.

Google Plus, which now has 170-million users according to Vic Gundotra, a Google senior vice president, has been redesigned to make it easier to use and more attractive. The first feature you'll notice is the left-hand Google Plus menu-bar, the “ribbon.” From it you can quickly go to your favorite Google Plus service.

And, I do mean your favorite service. Google makes it possible for you to edit the ribbon, So, for example, you can place your favorite service on the top. Or, if you don't care for one—I have no real use for social network games—drop them in the bottom-right “More” box. If you hover hover over some applications you'll also be presented with a set of quick actions for them. For example, if you hover over the photos app, you'll get options to add images from your phone or an online album.

Say hello to the new look of Google Plus (screenshots)

It's also a lot easier to start video hangouts. These are free video-conferences. You can have up to ten people in a hangout. It's always been a nice feature, but a trifle hidden. Now, it's right on the ribbon. Once in it, it's also easy to pick and choose who you want to join you in your impromptu video-conference.

Some of the changes seem to be purely cosmetic. For example, what Google calls an Activity drawer is just a slide-out box that displays +1s and any reshares of your post. That information used to be displayed below all posts. In the new Google Plus vocabulary, a Card is the box that contains posts and everything that goes with it such as comments, plus ones, shares, etc., etc. Gundotrra says, “stream of conversation 'cards' that make it easier to scan and join discussions.” I don't see any real difference between this and the old way.

One thing, which wasn't spelled out, is that when you now add pictures to your Google+ account, you can also give them a quick clean-up with the built-in photo editor. It's not going to replace Photoshop, but by integrating with Google's Web-based Picasa photo editor it does make it dead easy to neaten up photos you want to share with friends and family.

There's also a new Explore page. This is meant to keep you up to date with what's new and happening with Google+. So far, I don't find this very interesting. I withholding final judgment on it though until I see what Google has in mind for it.

There are also several small nice features. For example, shades of Twitter and it's trends display, a Trending on Google+ display on the home page.

Each of your circles also now has a slider that you use to determine how much of each circle's message feed makes it to your main all-circles feed. For example, I have my friends and family circles set to forward everything to my main stream. My Google Tech circle, which just has Google developers and engineers in it, is set to only display a few things on my main feed. If I want to know what's going on at the Google campus, I just head directly to that circle.

One last point, now that I've used the new G+ for almost a day, I've noticed a really annoying change: Comments to a post are now displayed in light gray on white. What the heck is that all about? I want to be able to read those comments, not squint at them! I want black fonts on a white background and I want it now.

This new look and feel, however, doesn't extend to Google+ on tablets and smartphones. They'll have to wait for another day. I suspect, we're going to wait for Google to finish up its plans for the white space, before we need a major overhaul of its mobile applications.

Last, but not least, there's the “Whitespace.” On big monitors, this is a honking huge whitespace between the main news feed and my online friends list. What's going to go there? We don't know. We do know that Google plans to put something there. What? Well, some of the best funny guesses I've seen include pictures of cats, porn, and that all time favorite: Bacon, yummy, yummy bacon.

On a more serous note, I suspect Google may be getting ready to let is put informative gadgets ala iGoogle in it. Then again they may put a YouTube TV video feed in it. Alas, I also strongly suspect that that at least some of that space will be given over to ads. I mean, it has to happen eventually right?

Related Stories:

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Google’s new privacy rules: Get over it already

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Microsoft: We're not involved in an antitrust complaint over Google+

Google Music: Your Great Music Locker in the Cloud (Review)

Topics: Social Enterprise, Apps, Google

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  • RE: Google Plus gets a new look and feel (Review)

    [i]Google Plus, which now has 170-million users[/i]

    Does this figure represent Google+ before or after Google recently combined (and "simplified") their privacy policies?

    [i]Last, but not least, there???s the ???Whitespace.??? On big monitors, this is a honking huge whitespace between the main news feed and my online friends list. What???s going to go there? We do know that Google plans to put something there. What?[/i]

    Advertisements? If true, though, they will be highly targeted based on data mined from the various Google services you use so who cares?
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Experian Hitwise pegs Google+ with about 61 million visitors

      Behind Facebook, twitter, pinterest, linkedin, and tagged.

      This is total visitors, and not unique visitors.
      Your Non Advocate
      • RE: Experian Hitwise pegs Google+ with about 61 million visitors

        They also pegged Facebook with 7 billion users, the current human population of planet Earth (see the article for disclaimers). Clearly, these estimates are high. I suspect that the Google+ active user population is significantly less than 61 million.

        Again, SJVN is acting a a propaganda machine for Google.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
  • whitespace

    They could be like ZDNet and center the page content so the empty space is to the left/right, and make this space into annoying ad panels which pop open new windows when you accidentally click on them. (Where i'm scrolled to in the talkback box, this page currently has black to the left and right of the main page content. Who would think that clicking on empty blackness would open an ad?!)
    • You speaketh the truth

    • heh, hope not

      Heh, hope not.

      Yeah, ZDNet's "empty space ads" are very annoying.
  • Sounds impressive but isn't

    "Google Plus, which now has 170-million users according...." Uh-huh. I'd like to know what percentage of those users have logged into G+ in the last six months.

    I'm a grown up with a couple of hundred FB friends. I would LOVE to move over to G+, but I won't. The reason is that my friends don't use it. Most of my friends leave their VCR blinking on 12:00, so I'm not expecting a mass migration any time soon.
    • Like multiple accounts on Facebook.

      Most Facebook users I know have multiple accounts, especially those playing Facebook games. That way, they can play on all accounts and transfer needed "goodies" to their main account to beef up their arsenals, or whatever.

      Facebook account number are highly inflated.
      linux for me
    • G+ is not what you think it is.

      From the very beginning Google Plus (Emerald Sea) was a way of integrating all of the Google services into a single account. 170 million user have, in fact, done that. People seem to confuse G+ with the social sharing page that way released at the same time.
  • Here's a Hoot

    Google + sometimes makes you use the horrible captcha thingy when signing in. Not sure if it happens when you don't check the box to "stay signed in" or maybe when you have not signed in for a while (?). In any case, don't check that box and then on the captcha screen, insead of trying the read the almost impossible to read letters, click the little handicap icon on the bottom right, and listen to an audible captcha - unreal - like some psychotic episode.
  • Nobody cares about Google+

    Facebook wannabe, late to the game and sadly inferior.

    Facebook wins, Google shows they can't do anything except advertise. Good thing advertising pays sooooo well or they'd be broke.
    • Late, but I wouldn't say inferior

      Late, yes, but I wouldn't say inferior. I actually very much prefer the way Google+ works over the way Facebook works. I think it's actually very much superior to Facebook.

      Biggest problem is, Facebook is too well established, and most people aren't gonna move.
      • I tried Google + a while back

        Very annoying, and inferior. Yes, the biggest problem is Facebook's lead, Google is very late to the game.

        Google, as usual, got outside their core business of advertising and blew a few $billion on a loser. No problem, they make lots and they'll just find somewhere else to waste their cash.
    • Inferior?

      What is it that you think Facebook does better? Aside from having started earlier and having more users.
  • thoughts

    "Each of your circles also now has a slider that you use to determine how much of each circle???s message feed makes it to your main all-circles feed."

    Actually, that's been there before, I guess they just made it easier to find.

    I like the new design, but to be honest I want to be able to see more than two posts on my 1080p monitor.
  • Add Notification to left vertical toobar

    Having 'visible' and always accessible tool options is good design. What isn't present on the vertical toolbar is the notification button.

    Every time a notification comes in, I have to scroll to the top of the page to click the notification button. Move it to the toolbar please.

    Otherwise, I feel the design change is a net improvement.
    Good going Google.
    Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
  • WTF

    Where is znet pulling my avatar from?
  • Pinterest is the #3 social web site

    Behind Facebook and Twitter, is Pinterest. Pinterest did this in a relatively short amount of time. Google+, like Chromebooks, is not exactly catching on fire.
    Your Non Advocate
  • I like it.

    I like the change (except I think Google's barebones theming needs more contrast (to be more practical) and is a bit blah-non-beautiful).

    The Whitespace is... odd, but pretty standard, I suppose. Example, as I type this in ZDNet, there is a large unused chunk of whitespace to the right of this comment feed. :)

    Something they could use it for: Email. I suspect Google has something in the works to combine News and Gmail on the Google+ page. Folks _sit_ in gmail all day long. Google wants them to sit in Google+ all day long. It's a logical next step.
  • Misleading figures a marketing gimmick 170-million users!!R they active?

    I am one of the 170-million users. I became a user because I have a gmail account and it was just a click of the button.
    Are these users really active is the big question. I am not active on G+ but I am counted as a user.